September 15th, 2011
I remember with some fondness, the first time I was pregnant. You can never redo your first pregnancy. It is encapsulated in your memory as this marvelous (and confusing) time where everything every moment was new. I had never done this before, what new sensation would I meet today? It seemed that my everyday experiences had been forgotten by veteran mothers. What they wanted to talk talk to me about, what always opened conversations (and then continued well into conversations despite my best efforts to shoot these conversations down) was their birth experiences. Now, please understand me, I don’t mind people talking about their birth experiences in general, but there is something about the nature of that conversation with a woman who is pregnant for the first time that takes on an almost legend-like quality. The story all but takes the mom (or the baby) to the brink of death and back. As the first time mom is great with child, bulging beyond how she ever believed she could bulge, she is taken aside by the veteran mom who tells her the painful horror story of the birth of her first, second, third, fourth, or fifth child. The one that went horribly awry. The one that brought on so much pain she never thought she’d make it through. The one that terrified her beyond what she could imagine. I don’t understand the purpose of this. I never have. Peppered throughout these stories are cautionary advisements, “get the epidural,” “use the birthing tub,” “have a home-birth,” “get to the hospital.”
Perhaps the veteran mom, wise with experience, believes that she is administering some sort of “training” for the new-comer? Perhaps she believes her experience will come in handy for the new mom? I see this scenario as nothing short of cruel. Really. I see it as insulting to the first time mom. As women, I think we must trust in the intelligence and self awareness that is innate within us. I want us to understand that we are all different, and birth will be a different kind of challenge for each of us. Not an awful challenge but a joyous challenge, which shows us what our bodies are capable of. Frankly, I don’t think these legendary cautionary tales are helpful to the new mom (they are like conversational google), I think they are harmful. Certainly, if one is asked about her birth story, I think it’s important to be honest, I am only suggesting that we listen to our own stories with the ears of a first time mom who has never felt a productive contraction, who has never felt transition labor, who has never experienced the sensation of pushing a baby into the world. Remember when you were fresh in the parenting world, and eager to digest any and all information you could about this experience you were about to have.
Then, can we all agree to this? Repeat after me: “I, ___ had a birth experience that was exclusive to me, and exclusive to that isolated birth. I made decisions during that birth that were the right decisions for me, perhaps everything went perfectly, or perhaps there were problems, but that does not mean that another person who chooses the right road for them will have the same experiences. I promise not to roll my eyes if someone tells me about birth choices they have made that I did not make for myself. I promise to trust and understand that each woman is in charge of her own body, and we are fortunate to have been given multiple options and the ability and permission to make decisions around our birth experiences.”
This is my guerilla effort to change the face of birth here. Starting with the moms. Shaping our conversations, so that we come together rather than divide. United in the fact that we share the common bond of motherhood, and trusting in each other’s abilities and desire to make the decisions that best fit each of us exclusively, understanding that there is a broad spectrum of “correct” in the areas of birth and parenting.